'Hero' plumber's firm faked stories of kindness

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Chippy_Tea

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I remember this story of the kind plumber breaking on the news turns out there was more to it than he was letting on :mad:



The firm run by a man dubbed "Britain's kindest plumber" faked stories of helping people as it raised millions in donations, the BBC can reveal.

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Depher, a social enterprise, used vulnerable people's photos without consent and founder James Anderson spent company cash on a house and car.

Mr Anderson prevented one elderly woman from killing herself, the firm claimed. In fact, she had died years earlier.

He denied some of the BBC's allegations but admitted: "I've made mistakes."

Since 2019, Depher has posted hundreds of stories about acts of kindness it says it has carried out.

It is a Community Interest Company (CIC) – as such it operates in the same way as a limited company, but it also provides a defined public benefit, such as providing a direct service to a community or using its profits to benefit a community in some way.

The Burnley-based firm has helped many people by using donations to provide free food, pay gas and electricity bills, do free plumbing work and even help with funeral costs.

The social media stories made him a viral sensation during the UK’s cost-of-living crisis and brought in at least £2m in donations, according to a BBC analysis of his company accounts.

Among the donors were, reportedly, celebrities such as the singer Lily Allen, Emmerdale actress Samantha Giles and actor Hugh Grant, who gave £75,000.

Mr Anderson has received letters of thanks from the late Queen and the King and a Pride of Manchester award. He has been a guest on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, The One Show, Sky News and the Russell Howard

But when the BBC examined hundreds of Depher CIC posts and interviewed families behind the faces on social media, it revealed a pattern of lies and allegations of exploitation.
We found:
  • Multiple examples of Depher recycling the same photos in misleading and false posts, including several using the same image of a dead woman
  • A victim of domestic abuse, who was pictured on social media with her young child and baby, was accused of theft - without evidence - by Depher
  • Depher funds were used to purchase a house and Mr Anderson also admitted to buying a car with company cash
  • Depher posted video and images of a vulnerable man in his 90s in fundraising posts more than 20 times, publicising information about his sexuality, despite the man pleading "God no" when asked if he would agree to be filmed
  • Former employees raised safety concerns after one staff member was pictured smoking a cigarette next to a leaking boiler
Mr Anderson deleted the main Depher CIC social media account with more than a hundred thousand followers during our investigation.

Speaking to the BBC from his Burnley offices, where thank-you cards and letters from dignitaries adorn the walls, Mr Anderson said: “I know I’ve done it wrong. I apologise. But what can I do? I haven’t got a magic stick. I’m not Harry Potter.”

He said he had made mistakes because of a relentless campaign of “bullying, harassment and attacks” by online trolls.

The BBC has seen online criticism of Mr Anderson which raises legitimate concerns, but he also showed us direct messages which contained abuse and threats.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/c3gxg4jd0ggo
 

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The man once dubbed the country's "kindest plumber” has had his British Citizen Award rescinded following a BBC investigation.

James Anderson, from Burnley, was given the accolade in 2023 for his work providing boilers and plumbing services for free.

The BBC revealed on Thursday that Mr Anderson's firm, Depher, a social enterprise, faked stories of helping people as it raised millions in donations.

A spokeswoman from the British Citizen Awards said information which had come to light about Mr Anderson's actions did not "align with our values".

She added: "We pride ourselves in recognising individuals across the UK who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on their communities and charities."

The BBC found Depher used vulnerable people's photos without consent and claimed Mr Anderson had prevented an elderly woman from killing herself, but in fact she had died years earlier.

Mr Anderson denied some of the BBC's allegations but admitted: "I've made mistakes."

Social media stories made him a viral sensation during the UK’s cost-of-living crisis and the company brought in at least £2m in donations, according to a BBC analysis of his company accounts.

Among the donors were, reportedly, celebrities such as the singer Lily Allen and actor Hugh Grant, who gave £75,000.

Full article - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/c0demn0x1zgo
 

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